By Cam Huffman
Woodrow Wilson head coach Ron Kidd said after Friday night’s Class AAA Region 3, Section 2 championship victory over Greenbrier East that he loves winning titles. Whether it’s an early-season tournament or a postseason sectional, anything that ends with the Flying Eagles being handed a trophy feels pretty good.
Beckley (20-4) will have a chance to pick up some more hardware tonight when it hosts Riverside (9-15) in a Class AAA Region 3 co-final at 7 p.m. at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. But the big reward at the end of this one isn’t another trophy, but instead a ticket — one that would give Woodrow a spot in the 100th West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission boys basketball state tournament and a chance for a 17th state crown.
The opponent is a familiar one. Woodrow and Riverside just met in Quincy on Feb. 8, and it wasn’t even close. The Flying Eagles opened up a 29-9 lead after the opening quarter, shot 50 percent from the floor and placed five players — Chase Hancock (18), Andrew Johnson (15), Donté Nabors (15), Nequan Carrington (14) and Brent Osborne (13) — in double figures on their way to their 10th straight win, 88-45.
Woodrow’s winning streak is now up to 16 games after a 4-4 start, and the No. 2 Flying Eagles seem to be on a collision course with No. 1 Martinsburg for a state championship.
But as has been proven time and time again in the postseason, nothing comes without a fight.
Greenbrier East’s No. 1 and undefeated girls team wasn’t supposed to lose to a Capital squad that was below .500 in the AAA girls Region 3 finals, Riverside wasn’t supposed to beat No. 6 George Washington in the Region 3, Section 1 boys semifinal and Shady Spring wasn’t supposed to take Woodrow to the wire in the Region 3, Section 2 boys semifinal.
But all of that is exactly what took place.
“You never take anybody for granted,” said Kidd. “(Riverside) beat GW on their home floor, and they’re pretty excited about being in the regional game. We can’t take them lightly.”
Riverside is still playing without its head coach. Dusty Herscher was suspended before the team’s first meeting with Woodrow Wilson. No reason was publicly announced, but the Warriors did forfeit a game with Parkersburg because of using an ineligible player, and media reports have said Herscher’s staff encouraged players to lie about the situation.
Chad Metten, an assistant who took over as the interim coach after that Woodrow game, has been in charge since, and he’s expected to coach tonight’s contest. Metten is 2-2 leading the team, including the upset of George Washington.
Junior forward Tyus Wood scored 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds in that upset of GW, and he was also the top scorer with 10 points the first time Woodrow and Riverside played.
“They’re very athletic,” said Kidd. “They’ve got some quickness, and they’ve got some height. If we don’t bring it, we’ll be in trouble.”
Woodrow could be without its leading scorer in tonight’s game. Nabors, the Flying Eagles’ standout junior guard, suffered bruised ribs in the sectional championship win over Greenbrier East. He said he plans on doing everything he can to get on the floor tonight, but he admits he’s been very sore the last few days since the injury. His minutes are likely to be limited, especially if Woodrow can build an early lead like it did in its first meeting with the Warriors.
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Woodrow’s longtime rival, Greenbrier East, will also be playing for a spot in the state tournament tonight. It would be the Spartans’ first trip to Charleston since 2002 and just the third since 1985.
The path to the capital won’t be easy for head coach Jim Justice’s team, though.
After a school record 15-0 start, Greenbrier East (20-4) is just 5-4 since the beginning of February. The Spartans lost a shocker to Point Pleasant in the Big Atlantic Classic and then fell at home to Princeton 11 days later.
The regular season ended for Greenbrier East with a 67-41 road loss at South Charleston, the only lopsided loss of the regular season, and after avenging the defeat to Princeton in the Region 3, Section 2 semifinal, East was pounded by Woodrow in the sectional final, losing 80-48 at the Brushfork Armory.
The Class AAA No. 8 Spartans will have to beat No. 3 South Charleston (22-2) tonight at the South Charleston Community Center to earn the state tournament berth.
When East played on that floor just two weeks ago, it turned the ball over 28 times and allowed sophomore A.D. Cunningham to score 17 points. Hunter Moles, who’s averaged 16 points the last four games, scored 12.
East trailed just 29-23 at halftime, but South Charleston used a 12-3 run to close the third quarter and put the game away.
Rondale Watson, the Spartans’ standout junior guard, had a rough night, scoring just 11 points on 3 of 13 shooting from the field.
Watson was also 3 of 13 Friday against Beckley, but in between he put up a 29-point, 12-rebound performance in the win over Princeton.
Greenbrier East — which does have quality wins over the likes of Woodrow Wilson, Bluefield and Princeton on its resumé — will need that type of production from its Division I prospect tonight to have a chance to pull off the upset.
Another key will be keeping 6-foot-9 junior center Obi Romeo on the floor.
East’s biggest matchup advantage in most games, Romeo battled foul trouble against both South Charleston and Woodrow Wilson, contributing to second-half runs by the opponents and lopsided final scores.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.
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